Nancy G. Brinker is regarded as the leader of the global breast cancer movement. Her journey began with a simple promise to her dying sister, Susan G. Komen, to do everything possible to end the shame, pain, fear, and hopelessness caused by the disease. In one generation, the organization bearing Susan’s name changed the world.
Shortly after Susan died at age 36, Brinker founded Susan G. Komen for the Cure® in 1982 and immediately faced an uphill battle. Newspapers balked at printing the words “breast cancer,” no one talked openly about the disease, there were no 800 numbers, no internet, and hardly any support groups. Few treatment options existed for breast cancer patients, and limited resources were committed to the disease. However, in a matter of years, Komen for the Cure became the world’s largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists fighting to save lives, empower people, ensure quality care for all, and energize science to find cures.
Brinker’s creativity in raising awareness led to programs like the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure®, now the world’s largest and most successful education and fundraising event for breast cancer. The organization’s unwavering advocacy for survivors led to new legislation and greater government research funding. To date, virtually every major advance in breast cancer research has been touched by hundreds of millions in Komen funding.
Brinker’s determination to create a world without breast cancer is matched by her passion for enlisting every segment of society in the battle. In 2009, President Barack Obama honored her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, and she was named Goodwill Ambassador for Cancer Control for the United Nations World Health Organization.
Additional accolades include the Mary Woodard Lasker Award for Public Service, Trumpet Foundation’s President’s Award, Barbara K. Olson Woman of Valor Award, the Forbes Trailblazer Award, Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People, Ladies Home Journal’s 100 Most Important Women of the 20th Century, and Biography magazine’s 25 Most Powerful Women in America.
Brinker grew up in Peoria, Illinois and graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She served as U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Hungary from 2001-03, U.S. Chief of Protocol from 2007-09, and was appointed by President George W. Bush to the Kennedy Center Board of Trustees in 2008.
Nancy Brinker is currently the chair of global strategy for Susan G. Komen and a member of the advisory board for the Harvey Milk Foundation. She is also a lifetime member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Her book, Promise Me — How a Sister’s Love Launched the Global Movement to End Breast Cancer, was released in 2010 and became a New York Times bestseller.